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Nobel reactions

Joanna Impey, BrusselsOctober 12, 2012

The European Union has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for six decades of work in advancing "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights." DW spoke to Human Rights Watch in Brussels.

Directional sign with distance to the EU member states
The European Union is made up of 27 different countries.Image: Fotolia/montebelli

DW: What’s your reaction to this news?

Reed Brody: Obviously we were surprised. There’s no doubt that the European project has over many decades promoted democracy, human rights and economic interests for the benefit of all. At the same time, the EU and its member states have shown less willingness to seriously confront and correct human rights abuses within the European Union: threats against minorities, restrictions against asylum seekers and migrants, racist violence are part of the European Union reality.

You’re based in Brussels and you work very closely with the EU. Do you recognise their long-term drive for peace that’s been honored by the Nobel Committee?

Yes, absolutely. There’s no doubt that the reconstruction, the bringing together of former enemies, the assistance to countries coming out of military dictatorships like Greece, Portugal and Spain. The uniting of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the wake of the wars in the former Yugoslavia have all aided in the construction of peace.

Can you give me an example of a field in which you have worked where the EU have helped to push things higher up the agenda?

Certainly the defense of human rights in countries like Syria, Iran, Burma – the imposition of sanctions on abusive leaders in places like Burma and Syria have been very important. Even the human rights prizes which are given out by the EU, such as the Sakharov Prize, which recognises the work of human rights defenders around the world. The EU was a driving force for the creation of the International Criminal Court and for the treaty banning land mines.

Where does it fall short in your view?

I think it falls short in that it doesn’t always practice what it preaches. If you look at the treatment of Roma today in France, the treatment of asylum seekers and migrants throughout the union, and particularly at the borders and on the seas. Asylum seekers who are spending months and years in detention in places like Greece and Malta. These are areas where the EU has yet to fully live up to its principles.

Where do you think the EU should go from here?

Hopefully the EU will be more aggressive to defend human rights at home and abroad, to crack down on human rights abuses within its borders and to raise the profile of human rights crimes outside its borders.

Reed Brody is spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, an independent international organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights around the world.

Joanna Impey conducted the interview in Brussels